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Ships’ Piping

The Standard

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The Standard

Eric Murdoch BSc, MSc, C.Eng Dott.Ing Francesco Sciacca
Director of Risk Management Deputy Head of Machinery Section, Marine Division
Charles Taylor & Co Limited RINA SpA
1 St Katharine’s Way, Via Corsica 12
London E1W 1UT 16128 Genoa
UK Italy

Telephone +44 (0)20 7522 7440 Telephone +39 010 5385651

Email Email
Image: Pipes with grip-type joints

2 Introduction

3 Pipes and P&I claims

4 Basic information

5 Pipes and ship classification societies

8 Ships’ piping systems

13 Pipe design

16 Causes of pipe failure

20 Dealing with pipe failure

21 Pipe maintenance

23 Pipe repair

24 Do’s and Don’ts

25 Appendix I - Mechanical joints in common use

27 Appendix II - Pressure test procedure


Everyone knows about the effect of corrosion on a ship’s hull, but
few people consider the effect of corrosion on piping. Pipes pose
a hidden danger, a danger that is often forgotten about. AS AN OPERATOR ONCE
Pipes are silent workers, conveying fluid or allowing air to enter REMARKED WHEN ASKED,
or to leave a space, and are the means by which many control
systems operate. They are unnoticed until pipe failure occurs and “WHEN IS IT NECESSARY
a machine stops operating, a space floods or oil is spilled. Pipes TO REPLACE A PIPE”,
penetrate almost every enclosed space, as well as the shell both
above and below the waterline, and the weather deck. There is no “WHEN IT BURSTS.”
system on a ship that has such enormous potential to cause fire,
pollution, flooding or even total loss.

The majority of ships’ pipes are constructed of ferrous material,

a material that is attacked by all forms of corrosion. As a ship
ages, so does the piping system. Maintenance is not always easy,
because pipes, unlike the hull, are difficult to examine because
of their numbers and inaccessibility. It is practically impossible The purpose of this guide is to alert ships’ crews to the danger of
to maintain them internally, where most corrosion takes place, catastrophic loss that can result from pipe failure. Our intention is
and at times just as difficult to maintain a pipe’s external surface. to raise awareness of the limit of redundancy in pipe design and
As a result, pipes can receive minimum maintenance, and pipe the difficulties involved in the surveying of ships’ piping. Pipe
failure is often the result. As an operator once remarked when failure will only be prevented by a proactive approach to
asked, “When is it necessary to replace a pipe?”, “When it bursts.” inspection, maintenance and repair.

Eric Murdoch

Image: Deck cargo piping on a tanker


Failed pipes cause, or contribute to, many serious claims. • A product tanker was gravity ballasting into a segregated tank.
The ballast line passed through a cargo tank. When ballast
• Bagged grain on a small bulk carrier was damaged after water
stopped flowing, a corrosion hole in the line allowed oil to
escaped from an air pipe running between a ballast tank and
escape into the sea through an open valve. Cost – $975,000.
the cargo hold. The pipe had a corrosion crack where it
connected to the tank top and water escaped through the crack • The main engine of a bulk carrier was seriously damaged when
when the ballast tank was overfilled. The ship was 18 years alumina in the cargo hold got into its fuel tank. There was a
old, but nothing had ever been done to protect the pipe from hole in the air pipe that passed through the cargo hold into the
corrosion; not even a lick of paint. Cost – $120,000. Repairs to tank. Cost – $850,000. The pipe had never been properly
the pipe would have cost less than $50. examined during surveys.

• Bulk fertiliser was damaged when water escaped from a • A diesel alternator caught fire after a low-pressure fuel oil pipe
topside ballast tank via a sounding pipe that passed through burst and sprayed oil onto the exhaust manifold. The pipe had
the tank into the hold below. The pipe was cracked and holed been vibrating, and this movement had caused the pipe’s wall
inside the ballast tank which contained saltwater ballast and to chafe and become thin. The claim cost a new alternator and
water drained from the tank into the hold. Cost – $380,000. $100,000, but the fitting of a pipe support would have cost a
Damaged sounding pipes are easily identified during mere $2!
inspections and repairs are inexpensive.

• A cargo ship foundered and four crewmen lost their lives,

when a seawater-cooling pipe in the engine room burst and the
engine had to be stopped. The ship was blown onto a lee shore
where it broke up on the rocks. Cost – four lives and $1m.
Corroded seawater pipes connecting directly to the shell are
often wrongly repaired with a doubler. Doublers should not
normally be used to repair shell plating.

• The majority of ships’ pipes are made of mild steel. • Pipes can be joined by butt-welding, with flange connections or
mechanical joints. However, the number of flange connections
• Flow rate, viscosity and pressure of fluid being carried allowed in the cargo pipes of a chemical tanker is strictly
determine a pipe’s diameter.
controlled by classification society rules.
• Pipes in areas of a ship where there is a risk of gas explosion
are earthed because fluid flow can build up a static electricity
• Good pipe alignment during assembly of a run prevents
‘locked-in’ stress.
charge. Bonding strips are used across flanged joints to
maintain conductivity. • The use of expansion (mechanical) joints, such as dresser-type
joints, is restricted to locations where pipes move because of
• Pipes that pass through other compartments pose potential thermal expansion or contraction, or ship bending. Classification
subdivision issues, especially open-ended pipes.
society rules prohibit their use for the connection of cargo piping
• Pipes, especially open-ended ones, compromise the integrity in chemical tankers. The most common expansion joints are
of the compartments they pass through. compression couplings or slip-on joints.

• The water circulating in cooling pipes will corrode them over • A pressure test of 1.5 times design pressure is a strength test;
time. a test at the design pressure is a tightness test. Pressure testing
can show the small cracks and holes that will not be found by a
• Pipes passing through tanks containing liquid are exposed to visual examination.
corrosive attack on both surfaces.
• Pipes are held in place by supports or clips that prevent
• Pipes carrying liquefied gas seldom suffer internal corrosion. movement from shock loads and vibration. Pipe failure is
• Visual checks of the external surfaces of a pipe will not indicate common when pipes are allowed to vibrate.
its condition because it could be internally corroded and have
a reduced wall thickness.
• Pipes carrying flammable liquids have as few joints as possible
and these are shielded to prevent leaks from coming into
• Most abrasive corrosion and consequent internal thinning contact with hot surfaces.
happens where the pipe bends and at elbows.
• Mechanical joints are not normally fitted on pipes carrying
• Liquid flowing quickly will be turbulent as a result of fluid flammable liquids.
separation and cavitation. Flow turbulence in a pipe will
cause pitting. A pipe with the correct diameter for the job
will eliminate turbulence.

Ship classification societies publish regulations for the design and
installation of ship piping systems, defining strength, materials,
system requirements (routeing), testing procedures and surveying

Classification society rules require ships’ pipes to be inspected

during annual, intermediate and renewal surveys.

Annual surveys
Pipes are checked visually. A pressure test is done if there is any
doubt as to their integrity. Pipes connecting to the shell are subject
to particular attention.

Intermediate surveys
The requirements are similar to those applying to annual surveys.

Renewal surveys
Pipes are checked visually and hammer-tested, with some also
being pressure-tested. The surveyor will select which pipes are to
be pressure-tested. Pipes carrying superheated steam, the fire
main and those that are part of a fixed gas fire extinguishing
system should always be tested. Some pipes might also be
selected for dismantling and internal inspection.

A general outline of the survey requirements for different ship

types is shown in Table 1 on page 6.

Classification societies have specific requirements with regard to ships’ piping systems that follow the general survey criteria
for the rest of the ship. The table below gives an outline of these requirements.

Table 1

Annual Survey


All essential services are generally In addition to the classification In addition to the requirements for the rest
examined with particular attention given requirements applicable to the rest of the of the ship, piping in cargo holds and water
to all fixed fire extinguishing systems and ship, the surveyor will complete, as far as ballast tanks are generally examined as far
to water/fire extinguishing systems. A test is possible, a general examination of all as is possible, including pipes on deck, in
under working conditions of the fire main cargo, steam and water ballast piping, void spaces, cofferdams and pipe tunnel(s).
is arranged. including pipes located on deck, in the
pump room, cofferdams, pipe tunnel(s)
The bilge pumping systems are examined
and void spaces.
and tested.
Particular attention is given to:

• Inert gas piping to verify the absence of

corrosion and gas leakage. A test under
working conditions is arranged.

• The crude oil washing system and

its fittings.

• The pump room.


Image: Spectacle flange

Table 1 cont

Intermediate Survey


The scope of intermediate surveys is the The annual survey requirements apply; The scope of intermediate surveys is the
same as annual surveys. however, depending upon the surveyor’s same as annual surveys.
findings during the general examination,
he may require pipes to be dismantled,
hydrostatically tested and have their wall
thickness measured, or all three.

Renewal Survey


The survey involves extensive examinations All piping systems within cargo tanks, All piping systems within cargo holds,
and checks to show that all piping systems saltwater ballast tanks, double-bottom saltwater ballast tanks, double-bottom
are in satisfactory condition to allow the tanks, pump rooms, pipe tunnel(s) and tanks, pipe tunnels, cofferdams and void
ship to operate and for the new period of cofferdams, including void spaces spaces adjacent to cargo holds, and pipes
class to be assigned (provided proper adjacent to cargo tanks, and pipes that pass through the deck or connect to
maintenance and required interim that pass through the deck or connect the hull, are examined and tested under
surveys are carried out). to the shell, are examined and tested working conditions to ensure that they
under working conditions. The surveyor remain tight.
Machinery and all piping systems used for
checks for tightness and looks to establish
essential services are examined and tested
if their condition is satisfactory.
under working conditions, as considered
necessary by the surveyor. In addition to annual and intermediate
survey requirements, all machinery used
Steam pipes are specially examined.
for liquid cargo services is examined,
Superheated steam pipes with a steam
including ventilation pipes, pressure
temperature exceeding 450°C require
vacuum valves and flame screens.
additional tests.
The inert gas systems are tested under
In addition to the annual and intermediate
working conditions. The systems’ main
survey requirements, fixed fire-fighting
components are examined internally.
equipment is tested under working
conditions, including relevant gas bottles, On the basis of results of these
which are hydrostatically tested. examinations, additional checks can
be required, which may include
Compressed air pipes are removed for
dismantling, hydrostatic tests and/or
internal examination and are subjected
thickness measures, or all three.
to a hydrostatic test.

Piping systems for fuel or lubricating

oil are carefully examined.

Image: Suction filter

Bilge system In a tanker with a separate cargo pumping and piping system,
the ‘enclosed space’ is the engine room and the diameter of the
The bilge system is used to remove small quantities of fluid that
bilge main is:
have leaked or condensed into a dry space. The system serves the
machinery spaces, cargo holds, cofferdams, voids, stores, tunnels d = 35+3√Lo (B +D )
and pump rooms. Each space has its own piping but the pump is
likely to be shared.
Lo = length of the engine room, in metres
The capacity of a bilge system is defined by the diameter of the
bilge main and pump capacity for the volume of the enclosed space. Cargo ships are required to have two bilge pumps with non-return
valves fitted to prevent back-flow or cross-flow.
In passenger and cargo ships where the engine room provides
bilge pumping, the whole ship is the ‘enclosed space’. The diameter The pumping system in a passenger ship must be able to drain
of the bilge main is: water from any dry space when one or more of the ship’s other
compartments are flooded. However, the system is not required to
d = 25+1.68√L(B +D )
empty the flooded space. A flooded passenger ship is required to
where, have at least one bilge pump, with its own power supply, available
for pumping. Bilge suctions must have remotely operated suction
d = internal diameter of bilge main, in millimetres
valves. The minimum number of pumps required is three or four,
L = length between the ship’s perpendiculars, in metres depending on the ship’s design.

B = extreme breadth, in metres Mud boxes and strum boxes (line filters) are fitted at the ends and
in bilge lines to stop debris being sucked into the pipe.
D = moulded depth, in metres
The requirements for bilge systems on ships carrying dangerous
goods are basically the same as for cargo ships. However, systems
drawing fluids from gas-dangerous spaces are kept segregated
with their own pumps and pipes, where appropriate, from systems
serving gas-safe spaces.

Image: Deck piping


Ballast system • Water spray systems

Ballast is taken on to increase a ship’s draught, particularly the Usually small-bore piping, which is dry when not in use.
stern draught, when sailing without cargo. On a dry-cargo or A water spray system is operated manually and looks similar
passenger ship, the ballast system is operated from the engine to a sprinkler system.
room. On a tanker, the entire ballast system is located within the
cargo area and is operated from a pump room.
• Inert gas (IG) piping

Fitted on all tankers over 20,000 dwt and on all tankers fitted
Ballast piping is usually made of ordinary mild steel. A ship’s size
with crude oil washing (COW) systems. IG piping is usually
determines the capacity of its ballast system.
large diameter low-pressure mild steel, with smaller diameter
branch lines. The internal surface of inert gas piping does not
Ships’ firefighting systems
usually corrode. The external surface is painted but will corrode
Piping is used extensively throughout a ship for fire control purposes. if the paint coating deteriorates.
The specific features of ships’ fire-fighting equipment are governed
by the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS). Many SOLAS
• CO2 piping

requirements have been put into classification society rules. Relatively small bore hot galvanised mild steel piping designed
They include: to withstand the surge loads that occur with the release of CO2.
Main CO2 lines are designed to withstand the same pressure as
• Fire main
that of CO2 bottles, while distribution lines off the main valve
Mild steel piping fitted with hydrants for hoses where saltwater are designed for a lower pressure. Typically, the main line is
is used for manual firefighting. The fire main is designed for a pressure tested to 200 bar, the design pressure being at least
typical working pressure of about 10 bar. Pipes in the fire main 160 bar.
are affected by corrosion both externally and internally. Pipes
are joined with flanged connections.
• High-expansion foam

Uses foam with an expansion ratio of 900 to 1 in mild steel

• Sprinkler systems
low-pressure piping. Pressure in the lines ranges from 4 to 5
Small-bore pipes kept permanently charged with freshwater at bar. Foam compound in storage tanks is pumped to a foam
about 10 bar pressure. A sprinkler system is arranged to release generator. The system is required to deliver foam at a rate of
automatically at temperatures of about 70°C, so the system can one metre of compartment depth per minute.
both detect and extinguish a fire. The system uses saltwater
after the fresh. After use, it is flushed with freshwater to
minimise corrosion. Some systems operate at higher pressures.

Image: Low expansion foam monitor


• Low expansion foam (and vice versa); it must be short, have increased wall thickness
and stronger flanges.
Uses foam with an expansion ratio of 12 to 1 in mild steel
low-pressure piping. Typical pressure in low expansion foam The Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) includes
piping is 12 bar. requirements for fire safety in engine rooms. In particular, special
double-skinned pipes must be used to deliver fuel to engine
• Dry powder
combustion chambers. These are made of low carbon steel alloys
Used mainly for the fixed fire-extinguishing system on the deck and operate at high pressure, between 600 and 900 bar. Double
of gas carriers and on older chemical tankers. Dry powder is skins are necessary because pipe fracture will cause fuel to spray
held in tanks and is propelled by nitrogen gas stored in in a fine aerosol. Fuel will ignite on contact with a hot surface,
pressure bottles. Dry powder delivery pipes are pressurised such as a turbocharger casing or exhaust pipe. The second skin is
to 18 bar. to guard against direct spraying. The pipe is designed so that fuel
will be contained in the space between the outer skin and the
Pipes carrying fuel oil and main pipe, and will drain into a collecting tank fitted with a
flammable liquids high-level alarm.

There are two principal types of pipes that carry fuel and they are Low-pressure lubricating and fuel oil pipes passing close to a hot
categorised by the pressure the pipe is designed to withstand. surface have to be secured against the possibility of oil spraying
Low-pressure pipes are used to move fuel from a storage tank to from a flange. To prevent this, the flange is usually taped. In
a service tank to an injection pump; high-pressure pipes are used addition, and whenever possible, the pipes are routed clear of hot
to deliver fuel from an injection pump to an engine combustion surfaces. Similarly, to prevent leaking oil falling onto a hot surface,
chamber. Ships’ fuel is usually stored in double-bottom tanks, pipes should never be allowed to run above a hot surface.
deep tanks, side bunker tanks, settling tanks or service tanks.
Regular thermographic surveys of hot surfaces will identify those
Piping between a service tank and a fuel transfer or booster
risk areas that are sufficiently hot to ignite spraying or leaking fuel.
pump is rated as low pressure. However, between each pumping
Preventive measures to be taken include additional lagging, spray
stage, pressure increases.
or drip shields.
It is a mistake to assume that even if a pipe’s pressure is relatively
Fuel oil transfer pipes are usually mild steel and may corrode.
low, fuel will not spray from a crack or small hole.
The calculation for minimum wall thickness includes a small
Pipes from fuel tanks can pass through ballast tanks and pipes allowance for corrosion. As a pipe ages and corrodes, leakage
serving ballast tanks can pass through fuel tanks. Because of can occur. Inspection programmes should concentrate on
pollution risks, classification societies have stringent rules identifying worn or corroded pipes.
restricting the length of any oil pipe passing through a ballast tank


Engine cooling system Sounding pipes are small-bore mild steel pipes used to measure
the quantity of fluid in a tank or a hold bilge. The pipe allows a
Water carried in pipes is used to cool machinery. The main engine
tape or sounding rod to pass through to the bottom of a tank or
is cooled by two separate but linked systems: an open system
hold. Deck sounding pipes pass through the weather deck and
(sea-to-sea) in which water is taken from and returned to the
are fitted with screw-down caps. Sounding pipes for engine
sea (seawater cooling), and a closed system where freshwater
room double-bottom tanks are fitted with self-closing cocks.
is circulated around an engine casing (freshwater cooling).
It is imperative that sounding pipe caps or cocks be kept shut.
Freshwater is used to cool machinery directly, whereas seawater
Sounding pipes are a potentially dangerous source of progressive
is used to cool freshwater passing through a heat exchanger.
flooding. An engine room can be flooded through an open sounding
The particular feature of an engine cooling system is continuous pipe if a ship’s bottom is holed. A cargo hold can be flooded
fluid flow. Fluid in motion causes abrasive corrosion and erosion. through an open deck sounding pipe when water is washed on
To reduce the effects of turbulent flows, seawater systems deck in heavy weather. Holes in weather deck air pipes also cause
incorporate large diameter mild steel pipes, the ends of which hold flooding during heavy weather.
open to the sea through sea chests where gate valves are fitted.
If a seawater cooling pipe bursts, both suction and discharge Air and sounding pipes are normally constructed of mild steel.
valves will have to be closed to prevent engine room flooding. Most of the time, these pipes do not come into contact with liquid,
In order to make sure the valves operate correctly when you need either inside or outside. The size of an air pipe serving a tank is
them to, open and close them at regular, say monthly, intervals. determined by comparison of the pipe’s cross-section area with
that of the pipe that will fill or empty the tank. This determination,
Seawater pipes are usually mild steel, but galvanised steel,
by the designer, is to avoid the risk of over- or under-pressure.
copper or copper alloy are also used. Freshwater cooling pipes
Air and sounding pipes that pass through other compartments
are generally made of mild steel.
are a potential source of progressive flooding. It is difficult to
inspect air and sounding pipes located inside cargo spaces or
Air and sounding pipes
ballast tanks. However, the integrity of air pipes for ballast tanks
Air pipes allow an enclosed space to ‘breathe’. They prevent can be checked by overfilling the tanks. Pipes passing through a
over-or under-pressure by letting air in or out of the space when dry cargo space must be inspected for damage caused by contact
liquid is pumped in or out, or when temperature changes cause air with grabs, bulldozers, etc. It is advisable to open and to inspect
or fluids to expand or contract. Cargo holds are ventilated by air air pipe headers on the exposed weather deck once every five
pipes passing through the weather deck and these are fitted with years following the first special survey. This is necessary because
self-closing watertight covers (headers). This is a Load Line corrosion on the inside of an air pipe header will not be noticeable
requirement. externally. Screw-down caps are fitted on the top of sounding

Image: Ventilation pipes


pipes. These caps should never be mislaid or replaced with Hydraulic piping systems
wooden plugs. To extend the life of air pipe headers, they should
Hydraulic pipes are high-pressure pipes. Hydraulics are used for:
be galvanised. The self-closing cocks on engine room sounding
pipes should never be tied open. • Manoeuvring the steering gear

Cargo piping – tankers

• Actuating controllable pitch propellers and thrusters

Cargo piping in tankers is usually mild steel and is protected from

• Control of watertight doors and valves

rusting by external painting. Most large oil tankers have a ring • Lifting appliances and deck equipment
main system that allows increased operational flexibility but with
the penalty of reduced segregation. Tankers fitted with deep-well
• Opening stern, bow or side doors

pumps in cargo tanks have dedicated piping. Each tank will have • Moving mobile ramps for hatch covers
its own pump, pipe and cargo manifold. Stainless steel piping is
invariably used with stainless steel tanks. On chemical tankers,
• Driving cargo and ballast pumps and for many other minor
shipboard utilities.
cargo pipes must be joined by welding. Flanged connections are
allowed on oil tankers, as well as on chemical tankers at valve It is a requirement that hydraulic systems for steering, pitch control
connections and for fitting portable spool pieces, which are and watertight doors have dedicated piping and pumps.
removable short lengths of pipe used for segregation of piping.
Some hydraulic fluids are highly flammable. As a result, hydraulic
Regular pressure testing of cargo pipes is essential to detect
equipment and pipework must be kept clear of hot surfaces.
weak points before they fail.
Alternatively, hot surfaces must be protected by spray shields.

It is important to prevent the external corrosion of hydraulic piping

located on deck. Hydraulic pipes operate at very high pressure and
corrosion-induced weakness frequently causes hydraulic pipes to
burst. A high standard of cleanliness is necessary when working
with, or replacing, hydraulic piping. Check the systems regularly
for leaks, corrosion or mechanical damage.

Use only good-quality and clean hydraulic fluid.


Classification societies publish rules for design and fabrication minutes with a dry pipe at level 2 and 30 minutes with a wet
of ships’ piping. The rules consider how the pipe will be used, pipe at level 3. Passing the level 1 fire test is the highest standard.
the fluid conveyed, materials for construction, and welding and If plastic pipes are to be used, the fire-resistance rating and
test procedures. Ships’ piping is grouped into three categories, classification society rule requirements must be checked first.
each of which has different technical requirements.
Pipe dimensions
Class I pipes have to comply with the most stringent rules. They
include fuel oil pipes operating above 16 bar pressure or above A pipe is sized by its internal diameter. The required diameter of
150ºC, and steam pipes where the temperature exceeds 300ºC. a pipe depends on the minimum cross-section area necessary
to permit passage of a fluid of given viscosity at a given velocity.
Class II pipes fall between the two rule requirements.
A pipe’s wall thickness depends on the pressure, the temperature
Class III pipes have the lowest requirements. They include of the fluid conveyed and construction materials. Pipes operating
fuel pipes that operate at or below 7 bar pressure and 60ºC. at high pressure, such as hydraulic pipes, have thick walls, while
pipes that operate at low pressure, such as ballast water pipes,
During design of piping systems, fluid temperature, pressure
can be designed to classification society rule ‘minimum thickness’.
and the type of fluid conveyed have to be considered.
Pipes that connect direct to the ship’s shell have thicker walls.
(See table 2 on page 14)
During design calculations, an allowance for corrosion is factored
Most pipes are made of mild steel. But pipes that carry dangerous
into the wall thickness. However, the calculated wall thickness
chemicals or particularly corrosive fluids are manufactured from
can never be less than rule minimum thickness. It is a mistake to
stainless steel. Some chemicals can be carried only in stainless
believe that the corrosion allowance is enough to prevent failure
steel cargo tanks and pipes. Some seawater pipes are copper, but
from uniform corrosion before the pipe is ‘design life-expired’.
plastic is often used for ballast, brine and sanitary pipes. The use
of plastic pipes elsewhere in a system is restricted because of the Pipes passing through tanks must have thicker walls. An allowance
requirement for them to pass a standard test for fire-resistance. for corrosion is added to the pipe’s wall thickness to allow for
It is not usual for plastic pipes to be constructed in a way that will possible external and internal corrosion. The allowance for
enable them to pass the most stringent, level 1, fire test. corrosion is effectively doubled. (See table 3 on page 17)

There are three levels of fire endurance test. In each case, the test
procedure is the same, the difference being the duration of the test
and the presence, or otherwise, of fluid inside the pipe. At level 1
testing, the endurance period is one hour with a dry pipe. It is 30


Minimum wall thickness for steel pipes

The graph shows the classification society required minimum

wall thickness for low-pressure steel pipes.

Table 2


12 20 33.7 48.3 70 108 139.7 177.8 219 369


Pipes in general
Pipes connecting to the shell (extra reinforcement)
Bilge, ballast and seawater pipes
Ballast water pipes that pass through oil tanks and vice versa (minimum reinforcement)

Image: Steam pipes

Connection to pumps There are no hard and fast rules about the number of clips
required in a length of pipe as this will depend on the pipe’s
Pipes are connected to pumps by flanges. Flanges are a potential
diameter, length, its position and the density of fluid conveyed.
weak point in a piping system. Occasionally, and to provide the
The contact area at the surface of the pipe requires protection.
correct pressure from a pump, a calibration orifice is fitted in the
Failures often occur as a result of mechanical wear when the clip
delivery piping. This can result in turbulent fluid flow and cause
loosens, allowing the pipe to move. Inspection procedures must be
abrasive corrosion or erosion. Welded flanges are prone to
designed to ensure that all clips are checked regularly, including
accelerated corrosion in the weld metal or in the heat-affected
those hidden from sight behind insulation or under engine room
zone. Pipes in wet areas where corrosion is likely need to be
floor plates. Special attention should be paid to clips in
examined at regular intervals (six-monthly).
concealed places.

Pipe joints
The preferred method for connecting two lengths of steel pipe,
Valves are fitted to isolate sections of pipe and will typically be
whether a straight, elbow or tee joint, is with a flange. With the
found at suction points, crossovers, feed lines, delivery lines and
possible exception of small-bore pipes in low-pressure systems,
where pipes need to be removed. Valves connected to the shell are
pipes are not normally connected by threaded joints. Mechanical,
flanged and made of steel or other ductile material. Grey or nodular
expansion or sliding joints are fitted in longitudinal pipes to allow
cast iron cannot be used for boiler blow-down valves, for valves
the pipe to move when a ship bends and flexes, or to cater for
fitted to fuel oil or lubricating oil tanks, or for shell valves. Shell
thermal expansion. Expansion joints are not fitted where there is
valves should be tested regularly, on a monthly basis, by opening
regularly high stress, nor are they used inside cargo holds or tanks.
them. Marking valve handles with high-visibility paint will help with
Expansion joints should never be used as a permanent connection
identification during an emergency.
for corroded pipes after a temporary repair.
Cast iron valves have a service life shorter than those made from
Classification society rules define which piping systems to use and
cast steel. Consequently, they need careful examination during a
the positions where expansion joints can be fitted. Only approved
special survey.
expansion joints are allowed.

Clips and supports

Clips and supports are used to hold pipes in position and to
prevent movement or vibration. A vibrating pipe can ‘work harden’
and fail. Pipes can fracture when there is insufficient support.

Pipes have a hard life: they carry abrasive and corrosive fluids; Uniform corrosion
they are exposed to atmospheric corrosion and to general wear
Uniform corrosion is the most common form of attack on metal.
and tear; they sometimes operate at extremely high temperatures.
Its aggressiveness depends on relative humidity, temperature,
The most common cause of pipe failure is corrosion-induced
oxygen content and salt content. It is widespread in pipes carrying
saltwater. Pipes on deck, in locations prone to wetting, in bilges
Pipes corrode internally and externally. Internally, they may be and in ballast tanks, as well as pipe supports are at risk of
affected by erosion, uniform and abrasive corrosion, fatigue uniform corrosion.
and galvanic action. Externally, corrosion is caused mainly by
It is a good policy to replace a pipe when the corrosion measured
atmospheric conditions, but pipes can corrode locally where
is equal to or greater than the design allowance.
liquids drip onto them.
Accelerated corrosion can occur in steam piping fitted to the decks
of tankers. If pipes are insulated, and the insulation gets and stays
wet, any corrosion is accelerated. Table 3 on page 17 shows
optimum corrosion allowances for various types of pipe.
Image: Colour-coding cargo pipes

Image: Pipe corrosion


Pitting corrosion and these can be used to categorise the extent of pitting.
As a general rule, any badly pitted pipe needs replacing.
Pitting corrosion is defined as the localised breakdown of the inert
surface layer that protects metal against the formation of cavities
Abrasion and erosion
or small diameter holes in the material. Such corrosion can occur
in mild steel and stainless steel. It has a random pattern, as the Abrasion and erosion are the wearing away of material by a fluid
formation of a pit is dependent on the breakdown of a pipe’s flow. Material that has been abrasively corroded or eroded looks
protective film. Pitting happens more readily in a stagnant pitted. To determine whether material has been lost by either
environment. The Oil Companies International Marine Forum’s abrasion or erosion, it is necessary to examine the processes
Guidance Manual for the Inspection and Condition Assessment of involved in both.
Tanker Structures contains pitting intensity diagrams for plates,

Table 3

Corrosion allowance for steel pipes in mm ALLOWANCE


Superheated steam systems 0.3

Saturated steam systems 0.8
Steam coil systems in cargo tanks 2
Feedwater for boilers in open circuit systems 1.5
Feedwater for boilers in closed circuit systems 0.5
Blow-down (for boilers) systems 1.5
Compressed air systems 1
Hydraulic oil systems 0.3
Lubricating oil systems 0.3
Fuel oil systems 1
Cargo systems for oil tankers 2
Refrigeration plants 0.3
Freshwater systems 0.8
Seawater systems in general 3


Abrasion happens when solid particles, such as sand, suspended Galvanic corrosion
in a fluid flow scour a pipe. It is therefore a mechanical process.
Galvanic corrosion is the electro-chemical process between
If the oxidised surface protecting a pipe’s base metal is abraded
different metals. It is most common where pipes connect to
by such flows, uniform corrosion or pitting can result. The main
equipment made from a different metal and where there is
characteristic of abrasion is the appearance of cracking in the
an electrically conductive path between the metals through
direction of flow. Filters are fitted in ballast and bilge lines to
an electrolyte.
prevent debris from being sucked into a pipe. A slower than
expected pumping rate may indicate that filters are clogged and
Graphitic corrosion
that they need cleaning. Worn or damaged filters must be replaced.
Cast iron pipes and fittings are affected by graphitic corrosion that
Erosion is caused when turbulent fluid flows hit a pipe’s inner
is most commonly found at bends and elbows, locations where
surface; it is most common at points where a pipe bends and
boundary layers cause water to flow at different velocities, or
at elbows where fluid flow changes direction, or where an orifice,
where water accumulates. Graphitic corrosion attacks the inside of
valve, welded joint or any other blockage impinges on fluid flow to
a pipe by oxidation and leaching of iron. It results in the formation
cause turbulence. Prevention of turbulence is the key to prevention
of rust supported by graphitic flakes. The process occurs over a
of erosion. The use of larger diameter pipes, together with a
period of time and, if the pipe is not replaced, will continue until
reduced pumping rate, can eliminate flow turbulence and erosion.
the pipe weakens and eventually fails, usually catastrophically.

Fatigue damage The risk of failure through graphitic corrosion can be reduced by:

Fatigue damage is the rapid deterioration of metal, the results • Identifying every cast iron pipe or fitting that has a connection
of which are cracking and collapse. It is caused by cyclical to the sea.
mechanical stress, or when pipes are connected to machinery
or other pipes that vibrate.
• Using ultrasonic equipment to measure the wall thickness of
pipes over ten years old; this should be done annually.

• During a docking survey, removing for internal examination all

iron pipes over ten years old that are located in high-risk areas
likely to be affected by graphitic corrosion, such as elbows,
where flow velocity changes or where water can accumulate.

Image: Misaligned air ventilation pipe


Water hammer Low temperature
Water hammer can affect any pipe but is most common in steam Very low temperatures cause water to freeze and to expand in
pipes. It is a problem in pipes where internal condensation occurs. uninsulated pipes. In cold conditions, high-viscosity or solidifying
Water hammers are impulse pressures that happen when steam substances will become difficult to pump because of their
enters a cold pipe containing a small amount of water. The tendency to constrict the flow in pipes. Care must be taken to
resulting stresses, along with possible rapid expansion, can avoid over-pressurising the pipe in an attempt to increase flow.
cause pipe joints to fail. Prevent water hammers by draining It may be necessary to add anti-freeze to a pipe system, or to
fluid from pipes before injecting steam gradually. arrange external heating, if conditions get really cold.

Steam systems are most prone to damage by water hammer

because they operate at high temperature and pressure, and
because condensed steam will remain in them, unless regularly Metallic pipes expand and contract as the temperature changes.
drained. A ship’s movement will cause them to stretch and bend, and
unless these stresses are absorbed by an expansion joint, pipes
Steam heating coils on tankers are particularly susceptible to
can fail. Bulkheads pierced by pipes present special problems.
damage by a water hammer.
The bulkhead’s strength has to be maintained and the stresses
resulting from a pipe’s movement have to be absorbed. If the
Pipe alignment
bulkhead forms part of a fire zone, insulation has to be repaired
Irregular stress affects pipes that are forced into alignment. If they or replaced to ensure that fire integrity is not compromised.
have been weakened by corrosion, stresses caused by thermal
expansion or impulse loading, the pipes will fail. Forcing pipes into
alignment is bad engineering practice. Failures are most likely at
flange connections or valves.

Image: Leaking fire main

It is not always practicable to examine every pipe on a ship, which with water, then pump it into a settling tank and purify it
means that pipe failure is always a possibility. before using.

If a pipe fails, the following action should be taken: • If cargo piping failure happens on a gas carrier or on a chemical
tanker, take measures to avoid vapour inhalation or skin contact.
• Switch off relevant pumps; isolate the affected section of pipe
A significant escape of flammable gas from cargo piping
by closing valves or by fitting blank flanges.
presents an extreme explosion hazard, especially if the gas
• Investigate the source of the leakage and make a temporary gets into the accommodation.
repair by binding or clamping. At the first opportunity, have the
pipe repaired or renewed by a specialist repair shop.
• Failure of a pipe that connects directly to the ship’s shell can
result in serious flooding, especially if the connection is located
• Avoid getting electrical equipment wet. If electrical equipment below the waterline because most ships are not able to survive
is wet, take care to avoid electric-shock hazards. Switch off engine room flooding. It is therefore essential to make sure that
electrical equipment. both suction and discharge valves can be closed, and that they
are leak-free.
• If there is leakage from a fuel, lubricating or hydraulic pipe, use
absorbent material to soak up the loose oil. Oil is both a safety
and a pollution hazard.

Fuel spraying from a fractured pipe into an enclosed space,

or on to a hot surface, is an extremely dangerous fire hazard.

• If there is leakage from a fractured steam pipe, evacuate the

boiler area to avoid the risk of personal injury. This type of
leakage can be extremely hazardous, especially if the steam
is superheated because superheated steam is invisible and
therefore difficult to detect. Test for a steam leak with a piece
of cloth on the end of a pole, the cloth will flutter in the
jet stream.

• If ballast piping on an oil tanker fails, exercise caution before

pumping ballast into the sea because the ballast could be
contaminated with oil. Check the surface of segregated ballast
for oil before beginning discharge.

• If cargo or fuel pipes on a tanker fail, be very wary of pumping

ballast into the sea because the fuel or cargo pipe might pass
through a ballast tank. If fuel becomes contaminated

Unless they are made of non-corrosive material, are galvanised • Check a pipe’s threaded connection where it is attached to
or plastic-coated, the external surfaces of pipes should be painted. a component made of different material. Look for galvanic
Generally, the maintenance of pipes should concentrate on corrosion.
identifying and replacing those that have weakened. It is important
to identify failing pipes before leakage occurs; maintenance of
• Check fixed expansion joints (bellows) for deformation. Look
for distortion that can occur with overpressure. These joints
piping is as much about procedural checks and pressure tests
are designed to withstand twice the pipe’s normal working
to locate weak points as it is about actual repair. The following
pressure. Deformed bellows must be replaced.
inspection procedures are recommended:
• Check for localised leakage as this can give rise to accelerated
• Inspect exposed piping and pipes in wet or damp locations at
corrosion. Inspect glands on valves fitted in saltwater ballast
regular intervals as set down in the ship’s maintenance schedule.
lines and seawater cooling pipes. Repair all leaks, irrespective
Look for breakdown of the protective coating. Check for frictional
of quantity. Remember that a slight leakage is needed to
wear at pipe clips and expansion joints.
lubricate the valve stem.
• Inspect the inside of pipes where they connect to pumps and
refrigeration equipment; this might require the removal of a
• Open and close line valves at scheduled intervals, especially
those that are used infrequently. Pay special attention to valves
length of pipe. Look for cracks caused by erosion.
that connect to the shell.
• Check bends and supports for fatigue corrosion that can occur
when piping is subject to vibration. If a pipe does vibrate, fit
• Repair paint coatings. Fit a doubler where the pipe has suffered
frictional wear as a result of chafing contact with a support clip
additional clips or supports.
or clamp.
• Check the wall thickness along the outer part of a curved pipe
that forms an expansion curve. Expansion curves are usually
• Measure a pipe’s wall thickness and replace it if its corrosion
allowance has been consumed.
cold bent and have reduced thickness on the outer part of the
bend. Erosion inside the pipe can cause accelerated thinning • Remove lengths of insulation from steam pipes and check for
of the outer wall. Measure thickness with an ultrasonic meter. corrosion. Repair or replace corroded pipes. When replacing
insulation, refit with an external layer of waterproof material.

• Look for pitting when checking stainless steel piping especially
if it carries saltwater. This is easily identified by the presence
of small rusty points on the pipe’s exterior. If these are found,
repair with a section of new pipe. A temporary repair can be
made by chipping away the rust, cleaning the area/pipe with
a stainless steel wire brush and painting it. Pitting is also likely
occur on the pipe’s inner surface and its presence can be
detected by removing a section of pipe and checking visually.

• Co-ordinate visual examinations with pressure tests. Some

operators prefer to pressure test before a visual examination.
Pressure tests should be arranged after a pipe has received
an impact, even if visually there is no obvious damage. When
carrying out an hydraulic test, which is a pressure test using
water, apply a pressure equal to 1.5 times the pipe’s working
pressure. Before the test, isolate ball valves to avoid accidental
damage to valve seals.

Use a pressure test to reveal small cracks, holes, and leakages

at flanges or at other connections.

• Whenever accelerated corrosion or advanced thinning of a pipe

is found, check all similar pipes in similar locations since they
are likely to be affected, too.

• If a particular space needs regular bilge pumping, it indicates

leakage. Check the space thoroughly to identify the leak.

Details of a standard pressure test are contained in Appendix 2.


Image: Manifolds, filters and valves

Pipes that fail are not normally repaired – they are replaced. If • After making any repairs, do a pressure test and a non-
there is a need for local repair, then treat it as a temporary repair. destructive test of any welded connection using the dye
penetration procedure.
• Temporary repairs can be made by using binding and rubber,
cement blocks, rings and clamps, or plastic resin. Wooden • After completing any repair, refit pipe supports or clips.
plugs in conjunction with binding are occasionally used to Use additional supports if the pipe moves or vibrates.
plug a holed pipe.
• Replace spray shields on pipes that carry flammable liquids,
• Permanent repairs usually involve the removal and replacement especially if the pipe is located near a hot surface.
of a length of piping. Welded doublers are not acceptable as a
permanent repair.
• Slag can fall inside pipes joined by welding and cause a
blockage or clog valve seats. Flush the pipe before use.
• A permanent repair can only be done with classification society
approved material. The society’s rules require the repair to be
• After repairing lubricating oil or hydraulic pipes, seek the
equipment maker’s advice on the care of oil and filters.
examined and approved by its surveyor.

Image: Cargo piping arrangement




• Replace pipes that have significant corrosion, i.e., when • Fit wet lagging around mild steel pipes.
the corrosion allowance has been used up, and check all
similar pipes, replacing as necessary.
• Wait until a suspect pipe begins to leak before arranging
• As a pipe ages, check its wall thickness regularly,
concentrating on bends, elbows, deck, bulkhead or
• Use fire hoses to replace a failed metal pipe, except as an
unavoidable emergency repair.
shell penetrations.
• Repair with a mis-match of materials, or with material of
• Arrange for regular pressure testing at 1.5 times the
different thickness in the same piping run.
design pressure. As a minimum, this should be done
every two years. • Leave material, equipment or clothing inside a pipe after
• Open and close shell valves at regular intervals and
overboard discharges, taking care not to discharge • Use stainless steel pipes in saltwater systems without
oil accidentally. washing them with freshwater after use. Static seawater
will cause pitting in stainless steel.
• Refit pipe supports after maintenance and check them
for erosion or mechanical damage. If pipes vibrate, fit • Force pipes into alignment.
additional supports.
• Use welding to repair an ‘in-situ’ fuel or lubricating oil pipe
• Keep pipes leak-free; paint them to prevent corrosion.

• Fit spray shields around fuel and other pipes carrying

flammable substances close to hot surfaces.

• Arrange a tightness test, at design pressure, of pipes

that have been accidentally hit.

• Make sure that all blank flanges have been removed

on completion of a pressure test.

• Inspect pipes running near a hot surface on a

regular basis.

• Ensure that insulation is maintained in good condition

and is free from oil contamination.

Image: Ballast, air and cargo piping arrangement


Grip type
Provide axial resistance and can be used with pipes under medium or high pressure. The joint is
achieved by an indentation in the pipe. There is an internal seal for tightness.

Machined groove type

Provide axial resistance and can be used with pipes under medium or high pressure. The joint is
achieved by using a pre-deformed or machined piece of pipe. There is an internal seal for tightness.

Slip type
No axial resistance. These joints can only be used with pipes under low or medium pressure.
The seal is achieved by packing.

Swage type
These joints are pre-assembled and cannot be dismantled. They can be used with pipes under
medium to high pressure. Special tools are required to assemble/fit them.

Press type
These joints are pre-assembled and cannot be dismantled. They can be used with low to medium
pressure pipes. There is an internal seal which achieves joint tightness.

Byte type/compression joint

Special joints which can be used in high-pressure pipes.

Flared type
Special joints which can be used in high-pressure pipes. A flared joint is generally used in the
connection of copper pipes on refrigeration systems.

Image: Pipes come in different sizes


A hydraulic pressure test is a straightforward shipboard operation.

Follow these guidelines:

1. Isolate the area where piping is to be tested.

2. Fill piping with water, taking care to eliminate all possible air
pockets that remain in the pipe before raising the pressure.

3. Increase the pressure in the pipes slowly, making sure that

shock loading is avoided. Watch out for problems as the
pressure increases.

4. When the maximum pressure is reached, maintain that

pressure for between 15 and 30 minutes.

5. Monitor the pressure inside the pipe by using a certified

manometer. Check that a reduction in pressure does not
occur apart from that due to thermal variations.

6. Even if there is no significant reduction in pressure, check the

pipe visually for small leaks. Before performing this check and
as a safety precaution, it is advisable to slightly reduce the
pressure in the pipe.


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